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Eating Disorders: Treatments

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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, there are treatments and support services available to help you. Eating disorders are primarily thought to be caused by emotional problems such as over-expectation, low self-esteem and stress or depression.

The first line of defence against this is psychological therapy, such as counseling or family therapy if there are wider family issues involved in the development of the disorder or the affected person is a minor.

Joining a support group for people with eating disorders might also be suggested.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be helpful. A trained therapist will assist patients in changing the way they think and react in order to prevent starvation diets or binge eating.

This is done by:

• Describing meals as a way to gain control of their eating habits so that eating becomes a positive thing rather than a negative thing.

• Educating them on the risks of eating disorders so they know why they should participate in therapy.

• Encouraging behavioral experimentation so that they can see they won’t become overweight by having three healthy meals a day.

For instance, the therapist could ask them to agree to three meals a day for one week and see if they become overweight. When they don’t, the therapist could then suggest eating this way again for the second week.

• For patients with bulimia or binge eating, techniques such as learning what triggered the binge eating to help prevent future binge eating and finding new ways to cope with stress, like talking to friends or having a relaxing soak in the bath.

The UK government wrote:

"This (CBT) is a structured therapy based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical sensations interact. It involves challenging unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, thus reducing the negative emotions and problematic behaviours that accompany them. A specific form of CBT for eating disorders focuses on modifying unhealthy eating and weight control behaviours, and unhelpful ideas related to weight, shape and appearance."

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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